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A technical problem: Tech jobs hard to fill on High Desert

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:59:30 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 13 2013 02:05:31 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with local tech industries and OSU-Cascades about the lack of local talent ready to work.

BEND, Ore. -

Josh Bryant would love to get all his employees together in Bend for a meeting.

"We have a couple guys that we work with in Sweden," he said Tuesday. "People all across the U.S. -- Texas, New York."

It's not the ideal situation, Bryant would rather his employees come to work every day.

But it's the only option.

Bryant is the CEO of Droplr, a file-sharing startup that recently moved here from the Bay Area. He says they have jobs open -- but they're hard to fill.

"We've just struggled to find the talent here locally," Bryant said.  "Just the applications and the quality of the applicants that we receive tends to be a little bit less than when we open the net a little wider."

Bryant is not alone.

A recent survey conducted by the Technology Councils of North America found our state is adding tech jobs twice as fast as other jobs -- but more than half of industry leaders reported they can't find employees to do the job, and say Oregon's universities aren't churning out qualified candidates.

It's forced companies to look elsewhere.

"We're hoping to become a magnet and attract the people that we need," Bryant said.  "California, the Bay Area for sure."

It's also prompting universities like OSU-Cascades to respond to demand.

"The future demand for the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, including computer science and engineering, is off the charts,"said Dean of Academics Marla Hacker.

Hacker said the college designed it's new computer science degree with local industry leaders in Central Oregon.

"The industry said, 'You have to have the fundamental computer science, but then the option you put on top of that is web, mobile web, software development,"' Hacker said.

Bend Research Human Resources Manager Valerie Beese said she does does hire employees from Oregon, but added  the future possibility of narrowing the scope to Central Oregon is exciting.

"(It will) benefit us in a big way to have the resources we need right here," Beese said.  "And also (save us) relocation costs.  Sometimes you get people out here, and sometimes they don't acclimate as well."

But for companies that can't find the workers, it's high-paid jobs that for now, aren't giving back into our local economy.

"The reality is, we still will probably have to be open to remote workers for a while," Bryant said.

Hacker said the interest from students in OSU-Cascade's computer science degree has been remarkable.

The program just launched this fall, and 25 students have applied and been accepted.

Other facts from the survey released from the Technology Councils of North America:

--80 percent of tech businesses plan to increase technical staffing in the next year.

--54 percent of surveyed businesses identified labor costs, talent availability and employee turnover are the biggest threats to their business over the next six months.

--73 percent said the state of Oregon's research universities is the biggest inhibitor to business growth.

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